Washington looks to California as it navigates climate policy threats

By Jordan Wolman | 05/31/2024 06:12 AM EDT

Whether the state’s program can navigate the same obstacles that California overcame will shed light on the durability of state-level climate programs.

Jay Inslee prepares to sign a statement.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) is preparing to fend off a challenge to the state's landmark emissions-capping program before he leaves office. Mat Hayward/AFP via Getty Images

Washington state politicians defending their brand-new carbon pricing program from Republican attacks can look to the south for guidance.

California politicians faced strikingly similar hurdles on their way to establishing the nation’s first economywide carbon-trading system, now more than a decade old, including a ballot initiative and lawsuits to overturn it.

Whether Washington’s program can navigate the same obstacles will shed light on the durability of state-level climate programs — and to what extent ambitious Democrats like Gov. Jay Inslee and Gov. Gavin Newsom can continue trying to stake their reputations on tackling climate change.


“I see a lot of parallels with California,” said Washington state Democratic Sen. Joe Nguyen, the chair of the chamber’s environmental committee and co-sponsor of the law that authorized the program. “The lesson is that we have to be prepared.”